Whistler Ctr sponsored lecture: Spandex and Zein Fibers

Published: April 15, 2013

The Whistler Center is pleased to have Dr. Gordon Selling from USDA/ARS (Peoria, IL) to visit us and will be presenting on April 26, 2013. The semiar will be held at Morgan Conference Room at NLSF Food Science Building at Purdue from 11:00 a.m. to 12: 00 p.m. A discussion of research programs carried out in government and industrial labs will be presented.

In the 1980's there was a global push to reduce the impact of aqueous effluent from textile mills on the environment (U.S.-Clean Water Act). One aspect of this law required the removal of zinc oxide (ZnO) from spandex fibers. In swimwear, ZnO is used to provide protection from chlorine. The ZnO was replaced with a magnesium/calcium carbonate pigment. Unfortunately, when the conversion to the new pigment was complete, the number of garment returns, due to degradation by chlorine, significantly increased. Given that there is a small amount of spandex in an $80 swimsuit, significant garment returns are not acceptable. Returning to the ZnO product was not an option. This market need required the development of an improved antioxidant package. The research carried out found that a semi-hindered phenol provided sufficient protection to not only eliminate returns but provide a new level of premier chlorine resistant spandex fiber. The process from problem definition through commercialization will be discussed.

Developing higher value uses for zein (corn protein), a potential major co-product of the bio-ethanol industry, will improve the economics of this industry. Historically, zein was predominantly used in the textile fiber industry. Unfortunately the techniques used at that time to modify the zein cannot be easily used today. Electrospinning was chosen as the most cost effective method to evaluate new chemistries to provide improved zein fibers. Various routes have been developed to provide zein fibers with improved tensile strength and solvent resistance. These reactions have been followed using rheological techniques in order to better define the chemistry and processing window. The relationship between solution viscosity, fiber diameter and solvent durability was studied.